It All Starts Up Front
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In football, everything starts with the offensive line. Period. This is a universal, undeniable truth.
O-line play is to football what pitching is to baseball. If you don’t have good to excellent people in those slots, very unpleasant things will happen in either sport.
Doesn’t matter whether it’s youth football, high school, college or the NFL, if the blocking is good, positive things will happen. A great offensive line can also cover a multitude of problems. The old Cardiac Cardinals of the mid 1970’s had a great offensive line. They won a lot of games despite generally shaky defenses and problems with depth. The Greatest Show on Turf era St. Louis Rams had outstanding blocking up front. Likewise for the Chiefs in the 60’s, 1990’s and early this century, but more about them later…
Take a look at Hannibal Pirate football...
The ’12 Pirates were very likely one play away from another Show Me Bowl berth largely because of the hard, unglamorous work done by the offensive linemen to open running lanes for the backs and to protect the passer. I’ve called play by play and color commentary on Hannibal football for both Quincy and both Jefferson City programs and as a voice of the Pirates since the early 80’s. Solid or better o-line play is a constant with the Pirate program.
Much has been written and discussed in the social media and elsewhere about the Missouri Tigers and their struggles in their inaugural Southeastern Conference season. Much of the Tigers woes this past season trace directly to a patchwork offensive line.
The five guys on the field much of the year were very different than what everyone expected to see a year ago. Early season breakdowns hurt against Georgia and they appeared to me to be a factor in James Franklin’s injury problems. There were bright spots. True freshman Evan Boehm was thrown to the wolves against some of the very best defensive linemen in college and he acquitted himself well. Max Copeland advanced from a walk on to the point where he’s a solid choice at guard. Four of this year’s five regular starters figure to return for ’13. I expect that there will be a significant payoff at Mizzou for the troubles endured during the ’12 season.
I wish I could be as optimistic about the Kansas City Chiefs as I am about the Missouri Tigers. Things have changed a lot since the picture at the top of this blog was taken. #77 Willie Roaf and #54 Brian Waters made the early years of the 21st Century fun at Arrowhead. They literally buried people. Priest Holmes and then Larry Johnson ran wild. The '03 Chiefs won 13 games despite a generally inept defense. The inability to adequately replace Roaf and then Will Shields no doubt accelerated the departures of Carl Peterson and Herm Edwards.
In 2010, the Chiefs offensive line turned in a decent season. Matt Cassel managed the game well at QB and Jamaal Charles was one of the most feared offensive threats in the game. The o-line play deteriorated midway through last season and the won loss record suffered. That deterioration continued into this year. The Chiefs troubles inside the 20 are a symptom.
In the days of Roaf, Shields, Wiegmann and Waters, getting inside the 20 meant touchdowns. Nowadays, those of us who are die hard Chiefs fans willingly take field goals. Losing Rodney Hudson at center was a huge factor. That exposed a lack of depth. Two different front offices haven’t done much to address this. It would not surprise me to find out at some point that the shaky o-line situation is why the Chiefs were not a contender in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. The continued O-oline woes at Arrowhead may also help claim the jobs of Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel.
Now, I see some Chiefs fans wishing for a QB in the first round—maybe with the first overall pick. Sadly, the Chiefs are in contention for that dubious honor. The prudent thing is to trade down and load up on the 300 pounders.
It doesn't matter who the QB is if he's running for his life. Because it all starts up front...